A Sneak Peek at REAL (Assessment)

A Sneak Peek at REAL

By NAfME Member Melinda Wallace

This article first appeared on Melinda Wallace’s blog here

I am very excited to present REAL Assessment at the 2017 NAfME National Conference this November! During my presentation, you’ll get a more in-depth look at the entirety of REAL Assessment.


REAL is a method of approaching and thinking about assessment to ensure that it is authentic and best for the music classroom. Here’s a sneak peek at what REAL is.


There are a lot of numbers and research that goes into reliability and validity of an assessment (validity is included here because they go hand in hand). Simply put, when an assessment is reliable it is actually measuring what it is supposed to and not something very similar. Here’s an example: I want to assess my first-graders ability to distinguish between ta’s and titi’s in a short rhythm. However, I administer it in a way that actually measures their ability to just keep a steady beat. We must be careful in how we assess concepts. One way to avoid this issue is to measure the same concept in multiple ways– asking the same question in different ways. Match these instruments to their instrument family; What instrument family does the flute belong to?


We have a lot of students and in the grand scheme of things, not much time with them. We want to make assessments simple, easy to grade, and quick to administer. Why would we want to spend a lot of time in class and out of class on assessments? Though we cannot eliminate all of the time it takes, we can make it more efficient. By making my assessments look like the activities I do in class, I can take notes on how students are performing, saving time AND getting a better understanding of how students are actually achieving. I assessed my fourth graders’ ability to use a clear head voice and match pitch with “The Telephone Game.” They had fun playing a game and had NO idea I was grading them at the same time. 

Three big questions come to mind here: “What are they learning?” “How are they learning it?” “Will they realize the connection?” Start with your curriculum and objectives– what materials are being covered now and in the future? Your objectives should be your only starting point. They all must have a purpose and lead to future material.  Next, think of what activities/songs/dances/pieces will the students use to learn and practice material. It is best to make your assessment look like these activities. This way, students are easily able to connect what they’ve learned and how they’ve learned it to their assessments easily.

Real assessment

We want to make sure that what we are teaching can be used in their future. This is NOT the idea that a student’s grade in music affects their musical performance for the rest of their life. Instead, this is the idea that music has a spiral based curriculum. We first learn to hear long and short sounds, then apply that to tas and titis, followed by tikas-tikas, and so on. We need to make sure that the content we are teaching and assessing can be applied to future learning. 

REAL means that assessment is not an end-result of learning, or that we are teaching to the test, instead, it means that assessment is a natural extension of learning that authentically shows student achievement.

About the author: 


NAfME member Melinda Wallace is a 6th year music educator. She has classroom experience in K-5 general music, 4-12 band, and K-3 strings. Melinda’s Bachelors of Music Ed. is from Otterbein College, and her Masters of Music Ed. was completed through Kent State. She collaborated on the ODE Model Curriculum in 2012 & is currently the OMEA chairperson for Curriculum and Assessment. Melinda is currently teaching in the Licking Heights Local School District.

Melinda is married to fellow musician and media professional, Dusty Wallace. They have been married since 2010. The Wallace family resides in Alexandria, Ohio with Cadence (daughter), Emilio (cat), and Granger (dog).. “Mel” loves coffee, crossword puzzles, and spending time with friends and family. Follow Mel on Twitter/ @MusEdAssessment

Melinda Wallace presented on her topic “REAL Assessment: Authentic Assessment Made Easy” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference last November in Dallas, TX. Submit a session proposal by February 3 for the 2020 NAfME National Conference!

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